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Beware the

Team Scheme

As featured in the 
Labor Party Press

Capitol Hill Shop Steward

Are you a team player? Do you cooperate with your empowered and involved co-associates to help the self-directed team reengineer so it can compete in the global marketplace? Are you willing to adapt your personal goals to be compatible with the corporate culture of win-win, boundarylessness, competitiveness, excellence, customer satisfaction, peer assessment and management performance?

Are you as fed up with this crap as I am?

While the boss has been paying us to sit through the latest version of this stuff at work, big business has been saturating Congress with the "win-win" message as well. Hearings have been held to tout the cure-all benefits of "teamwork." Cringing worker-witnesses have testified about how, as "empowered" team players, they can now participate in such decisions as what handsoap to use in the office bathroom or enjoy the flexibility of taking an hour off for the PTA meeting. Earlier this year, the National Association of Manufacturers organized members of Congress to visit companies where smiling and contented self-directed team members told them about their wondrous workplaces.

All the PR is paying off. Congress is about to vote again on the so-called "Teamwork for Employees and Managers Act" (S295/HR634), to legalize once and for all the old-fashioned "company union." This same bill passed both the House and Senate in the last Congress, and Clinton promptly gave it the veto.


But don't count on Clinton to do it again. For all we know, his recent golf game with a couple of General Electric bigwigs could have won him over to the "team." Especially since, in late July, Clinton's wing of the Democratic Party, the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), came out with a briefing paper that urges Democrats to reverse their decades-long opposition to company unions by supporting this bill.

What the Teamwork bill would do is to allow your boss to set up, pick the members of, fund, and control a group of employees, and then talk to them about anything at all. Wages, working conditions, work schedules, you name it, all neatly under the thumb of The Boss. This company manipulation has been banned since the passage of the Wagner Act in the 1930s.


Any of you who have ever worked for a non-union employer know this has been going on for years,even though it's technically a violation of the law: Bosses set up phony "committees," get the workers to put their seal of approval on some managementscheme, and the rest is history. Once in a while, the boss sets up a team expressly in order to stop a real union from organizing. At that point, Boss actually may run into a legal challenge under the Wagner Act. Legalizing the "company union" is Boss's answer to this occasional problem.

But probably Corporate America's fondest wish is to use the Teamwork bill to undermine or possibly even smash unions that are already in place. Because this bill would give your boss the green light to set up one of these fake groups right under the union's nose. Pretty soon your union would be spending all its time fighting for its life, as company kiss-asses compete with you and attack you from the inside. Just imagine how this new organization will be able to fix all those problems around the worksite that Boss always kept your union from fixing in the past. All done through "cooperation," not like that "confrontational"union. And the team doesn't even have to pay dues -- or maybe just a dollar a month "donation." Get the picture?


Congress will be voting on this bill any day now, and just in time to help came our friends at the DLC. This is the outfit started back in the 1980s to help move the Democratic Party completely into the corporate camp. Members have included President Clinton, Vice President Gore, and labor's new favorite, Dick Gephardt.

Opposition to company unions used to be a Democratic Party no-brainer, but not anymore. After all, the DLC argues, "The key for New Democrats is to focus not on perpetually maintaining decades-old labor laws, but on their overriding objective: worker empowerment." Hey, for that matter, why bother to maintain scruffy old laws like minimum wage or overtime pay?

While allowing that any legislation should "protect against abuse of teams" (just how is that going to be enforced?), the DLC proceeds to offer many insightful reasons why the Democrats should desert workers on this issue. For instance, did you ever consider that "Employers and employees should be able to work together?" I don't know about you, but it doesn't take a federal law to get me to work together with my boss. In fact, it's pretty much a condition of employment.

I'd like to know what's so new about these "New Democrats." Just sounds like the boss talkin' to me.

Next time you're stuck in one of those "employee involvement" meetings, go for broke. Instead of thinking of ways to work harder, therefore making your boss even more rich, daydream about who you are going to ask to join the Labor Party.

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